The Risks Of Ignoring Hepatitis Infection

2010-01-24 |

While humankind has known of Hepatitis as an infectious liver disease since the 8th century, our specific knowledge of Hepatitis C is decidedly more recent. Hepatitis C was only identified as a separate disease in 1988. Despite the discovery being relatively recent, the rates of Hepatitis C infection have been reduced because of prevention programs. However, in the last few years, the effects of infection have started to increase and it is time to pay the disease more attention.

What Is Hepatitis?

Though the various forms of Hepatitis all share a common name, they are grouped because of the effect they have on human health rather than a relationship to one another. The diseases all infect the liver to some degree. At present there are 5 known forms of viral Hepatitis labeled A through E. In developed countries, the only two common forms are Hepatitis B and C. Of the two, only Hepatitis B currently has a vaccine.

How Many People Are Affected By Hepatitis?

In Australia, the UK, Canada, and the US, the approximate numbers of people infected by Hepatitis C (HCV) are 211,000, 185,000, 242,000 and 3.2 million, respectively. Worldwide the number of people infected is estimated at between 270 and 300 million. Unfortunately due to a frequent lack of symptoms, between 1 and 2 in 5 people with the disease are unaware that they are infected. For 3 in 4 people who contract Hepatitis C, the infection will become chronic. These two factors make controlling the spread of the disease more difficult.

What Are The Effects Of Hepatitis Infection?

Once infected, by being born with the infection, through exposure to contaminated blood or because of unprotected sex, some people with Hepatitis C can eventually suffer liver failure or liver cancer. Hepatitis C causes cirrhosis or the development of scar tissue in the liver and over 20 to 40 years can lead to liver failure in roughly 20% of those with chronic Hepatitis C. With liver failure, organ transplantation is the only option and Hepatitis C is the cause of almost half of the liver transplants in the US.

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Category: Disease Information, Disease Prevention, Health Risks

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